Man freed after spending decades in jail for crime he didn't commit

Man freed after spending decades in jail for crime he didn't commit

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - DNA evidence has set a man free for a murder he did not commit more than 30 years ago.

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Keith Allen Harward was not the perpetrator in a 1982 rape and murder in Newport News. They granted his petition for a writ of actual innocence on Thursday after new DNA tests failed to identify Harward's genetic profile in sperm left at the crime scene.

Attorney General Mark R. Herring had asked the court to expedite his hearing Wednesday after DNA evidence showed Harward was not guilty.

Herring said "the Commonwealth got it wrong" and is pushed to have Harward released after the Department of Forensic Science presented its evidence.

Harward, now 59, was convicted in 1983 of killing Jesse Perron with a crowbar and sexually assaulted the dying man's wife.

"For more than 30 years, Mr. Harward has never admitted guilt, and he now has presented DNA evidence that proves he could not have been the perpetrator," said Herring.

Herring's office says DNA evidence shows that a former sailor, Jerry L. Crotty, committed the crime. He died in 2006 in an Ohio prison, where he'd been detained for a 2002 abduction.

"If the new scientific testing results had been available at the time of his trial, no rational trier of fact would have found proof of Harward's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," said Herring.

"His trial was a complete farce," said NBC12 legal expert, Steve Benjamin.

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